Succotash

I recently got back from a trip to Canada. I’ve been dreaming of going to Vancouver for a few years now, thanks to a cooking show I watched while in college. I think it was Giada De Laurentiis, checking out the restaurants and attractions.

Despite the drought, it was more beautiful than I expected (standards of beauty get lowered significantly after living in a rain-choked Texas for about 7 years), and it would have been beautiful even if I wasn’t snide.

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Other than the restaurant Giada went to, I didn’t have an idea of what the food scene would be like once we got up there. I knew I wanted poutine. I’d heard about good local breweries. My friends were mixed in their recommendations or warnings about Tim Horton’s, but other than that, I was a blank slate.

Most nights, we’d kind of wander into restaurants, getting what was convenient or close, or what seemed good enough to stop the bus for and get down. (On that note, if you’re interested in Tibetan food and are in Vancouver, you should check out the Yak & Yeti bistro.)

But one night, our Canadian friend got off work early and was able to prepare a tasty-ass dinner. Fresh salmon, grilled, and succotash. Of course I love salmon and it was wonderful, but what really stuck out to me was the succotash. Before that night, it’d never been real. “Succotash” is from the Loony Tunes universe–it was part of a catch phrase, not food! But it was real, and it was surprisingly tasty. We even had to make a new batch once we made it back to Texas, only three nights later.

Succotash

Looking online, there is absolutely no single definition of succotash. Our Vancouverite made no pretense of measuring ingredients, either making it from memory or winging it. So that’s how I learnt–just watching over his shoulder. Consequently, this recipe won’t have any objective measuring terms–you’ll have to decide what you like. I was told that corn and beans make a whole protein, and including the corn brings together the three sisters (at least symbolically) so they seem worth keeping together.

 

There are definite changes you can make to this. Add peppers, don’t use bacon, toss in some herbs or greens. Make it what you want.

1/5 or 1lb bacon
corn cut from 2 ears of corn
1 or 2 cans of beans
2-3 tomatoes
2-3 yellow squash
fresh thyme

1. Prep everything by cutting the corn off the cob and chopping the rest into smallish, bite-sized pieces (not the beans, they’re ok)
2. Fry the bacon until desired crispiness
3. Remove bacon from pan
4. Use desired amount of bacon fat (probably 1-2 tbs) to fry up everything else
5. Fry until veggies are desired tenderness (should’t take long at all). Add the bacon back in sometime before the end.

 

Although I didn’t remember at the time of making our Texas batch, the Canadian batch also included 1 large jalapeño chopped into thin strips (how did Texans forget a pepper?!), fresh thyme and basil, a yellow pepper, green and yellow zucchini, and some ground cumin.

Russian Mushroom Soup

There is a surprisingly tasty and enchanting restaurant downtown. It feels like your European grandma’s house–full of lace, fancy cabinets and glassware (though mismatched), and creepy/homey/charming trinkets. Although my grandmother isn’t Russian, I could see elements of her European roots here.

I realized the first time I ate there that I didn’t know what to expect of Russian food. I patted myself on the back for recognizing some of the names, but by no means could I expect what flavors would work together, which pictures matched up with the food, or most important of all–which infused vodka to accompany everything.

To introduce myself, I got a few smaller dishes, and the crowd I was with was down with sharing, so we all got to taste some of each others’. What left the strongest impression on me was the mushroom soup. It felt like hunter-gatherer food. Light and refreshing, but also somehow sustaining and filling. The broth wasn’t thick and the ingredients hadn’t been stewed down, but the flavors somehow worked together marvelously.

Now that I’m on this mushroom kick and the cold weather swooped in for a visit, we tried to make some at home.

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Russian Mushroom Soup

  • 2 morells (feel free to skip this expensive ingredient that we bought on a whim)
  • handful of woodear mushrooms
  • handful of oyster mushrooms
  • 1 cup or so of porcini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 med onion
  • 2 med potatoes
  • 1/2 of a celery root
  • 1/2 of a fennel root
  • 1 parsnip
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tbs peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbs whole allspice

 

  1. In a skillet, saute the mushrooms and onions. If you’re using fresh everything, great, if not, rehydrate the dried ones first.
  2. In a separate pan, cook barley as per package instructions.
  3. As the mushrooms approach done-ness, bring to a simmer 4 – 6 cups of water with the roughly chopped celery root, fennel, carrots, parsnips and bay leaves in a separate soup pot. After about 10 minutes, add the potatoes as well.
  4. Once the mushrooms have lost all their moisture and have gotten somewhat mushy, add them to the soup pot. Let simmer for about 10 minutes
  5. Add nearly the rest of the ingredients : barley, peas, garlic, peppercorns, and allspice. Let simmer for 10 minutes
  6. Add the parsley and dill.
  7. Let stew until the flavors have melded beautifully, about 10 more minutes.

I found the whole peppercorns and allspice lent a good flavor to the soup, but I got tired of crunching down on them. Now, I wish I had used a cheesecloth or something to keep them in the soup. I’ll experiment with that and let you know, but if you have any suggestions for me I’d be very appreciative! For added flavor, you could use broth instead of water.

Mushroom Surprise, Part 2

Hello again!

The overtime has yet to calm down, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten you. Today I’ll post the tantalizing finish to The Mushroom Surprise Saga. The mushroom bacon from the last post was used as a topper for this more complete meal.

We got a sampler pack of mushrooms and tried half of them as the “bacon” and the other half went into this … stir fry? We basically sauteed vegetables that seemed wonderful together, then tossed it on top of some miso-quinoa.

Since there was no meat in either of these recipes, I did pull a few savory tricks out of my bag. When cooking the quinoa, I added some Liquid Aminos and red miso paste. If you don’t have liquid aminos, you could use mushroom broth, beef broth, or even soy or Worcestershire sauce. They all have a similar flavor profile to me, with slight variations.

Cook the quinoa according to your usual methods (bring 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water to boil in a pot, once boiling, turn heat to low, cover and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes. remove from heat and let sit for 5. fluff and serve) but with the extra additions. If you want to be super exact, you can pour your liquid element into a the measuring cup you’ll use to measure the water, to make sure you end up with the proper 2 parts liquid.

As for the interesting bits, I used:

Asparagus

Brussel Sprouts

Shallots

Alba Clamshell Mushrooms

Walnut oil

 

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Start by:

  1. Chop the asparagus into bite-sized bits, and the brussel sprouts in half. Go ahead and chop the shallots too, but set them aside.
  2. Cook the asparagus and brussel sprouts in medium heat until just starting to get tender, use the walnut oil.
  3. Once those are tender, add the shallots. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes or so. (You can probably add the shallots and mushrooms at the same time, it’s just a matter of a difference of texture).
  5. Eat it!

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Fungus Bacon, or, Mushroom Surprise, Part 1

I’ve been staying late at work a lot this week, so I’m going to pull that excuse and turn it into a fun advantage! Today’s article/recipe will be a bit of a teaser.

We were experimenting with mushrooms a little while back and got a sampler pack. In combining the different mushrooms in one dish, we tried out two different cooking methods. One is tried and true, tasty and vegan friendly–maybe even playfully deceptive if you’ve got a little Ferran in you.

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For this part of the dish, we used the shiitake, chanterelle, and king oyster mushrooms. We’ve done this with shiitake mushrooms, but the others were a bit of an experiment. We found out that they all work well, but the key is to make sure to cut them to the same consistency. Slight differences are magnified as the mushrooms cook down, so it’s definitely worth taking your time.

After cutting them, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper. You want them to be covered, but not sopping, and as for the SnP, I say heavy on the P. Some salt is good to help out, but keep in mind that people add salt once it’s on the plate, so no need to overdo it here.

 

 

 

 

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Once they’re ready, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes then flip. Bake another 15 minutes, then check and flip again. Moisture will evaporate more readily from the edges than the center, so try to re-disperse when flipping. Repeat this until the “bacon” is in a satisfactory zone of the crispy-gooey scale.

Hatch Pain Perdu

The pain perdu I’ve been exposed to is hard to find. When I search for the phrase, I come across “that’s just French for French toast!” or crusty, fried, maybe baked bread recipes with sauces. What I’m used to is stale bread, thrown in an oven pan, drowned in broth, cream, cheese etc etc etc and baked until the bread absorbs it. If y’all know a better name for it, let me know, otherwise I’m gonna keep calling it what I know.

In Texas around August, hatch peppers are a big thing. Grocery stores will have roasting parties, restaurants will bust out seasonal menus, city blocks will erupt in hot sauce festivals.

I caved in the grocery store and bought a loaf of the hatch cheddar bread. Although I’m an eater, I do still not have any roommates, so bread will sometimes go bad at my place. After nomming through half the loaf, I decided this would be a great way to use and keep the old bread.

To make it complete, I bought fresh hatch peppers and some hatch sausage to go with it. Hatch 3 ways.

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The end result isn’t the most photogenic, but it’s very tasty.

 

Hatch Pain Perdu

  • enough hatch bread to fill your baking pan
  • heavy whipping cream
  • broth
  • fresh hatch peppers
  • cheddar
  1. Chop bread and peppers. Mix roughly and layer into baking pan, while putting cheese between the layers.
  2. Fill the pan half way with a mixture of broth and cream. I used a bit more broth than cream, but the proportions are up to you
  3. Bake at 370 for 30 minutes, then check on it.

Aigo Bouido

Oh man, this soup.

I couldn’t stop myself from eating a pound of bread and two bowls of this soup. After that, I couldn’t do a lot of things. But after after that, I felt amazing.

I’d been feeling a little under the weather when this soup came on my radar. The fact that it would help with my sickness was an bonus, an accessory. It is no secret that I love garlic, so when this recipe made it into my brain, of course I jumped for it. I’ve always believed fervently and zealously in the power of garlic. It’s to the point that I even “convert” people and do things like make them read the Wikipedia page. It stops me from getting eaten by mosquitoes when I go to Louisiana, it keeps my heart healthy despite eating like someone from Louisiana, and it comes to the rescue when I’m coming down with something. Generally, I have a little soup I throw together on mornings when I need to eat but am feeling too bad. Aigo bouido reminded me of that soup on overdrive.

I’ve been on a Julia Child kick ever since reading her memoir, which is where I found this recipe. Although I was able to find her version online, I decided to make a Frankenstein’s monster, pulling my favorite parts out of all the recipes I found. Broth seemed more flavorful than water, a bread bowl seemed tastier and easier than toastlets with fresh mayonnaise, and despite her saying that it would be easier to peel the garlic after boiling it, I peeled it like normal.

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Falling in line with what I vaguely think I know about garlic, I smashed it instead of slicing, and I didn’t strain it out. It was delightful biting into a chunk of aromatic garlic.

*On that note, when you eat this, make sure that whomever you make out with is also eating this soup.

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In her book, she said that she made it after a rough and stormy Mediterranean day, full of wind, salt, and poor spirits. But this soup livened everybody up again. It is surprisingly light and refreshing, which is part of why I wanted bread with it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be very substantial which might lead to accidentally eating the whole pot. IMG_5160

 

Aigo Bouido

  • 1 – 2 bulbs garlic
  • 6 – 8 cups veggie broth
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tbs olive oil (or butter, or both)
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 2 cloves (don’t skip!)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sage
  • salt
  • pepper
  1.  Crush garlic. Heat oil in med/low pot. Add garlic and cook until they begin to golden.
  2. Add herbs and stir. Cook for a minute or so.
  3. Add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and cheese together.
  5. After the 30 minutes, temper the egg/cheese by very slowly adding a cup of broth. Once tempered, return mixture to pot.

Inspired by Saag

I’ve been so in love with exotic spices recently so I’ve been trying my hand at food that’s not traditionally in my family and I’ve got a couple of restaurants that will soon be burning holes in my pockets. Since these aren’t flavors and smells I’ve worked with for years and years, I still need to work on calibrating my nose a little and so I follow recipes and recommendations a little more closely. For this post, I used two articles for guidance: AllRecipes Indian Saag and Whats4Eats Saag.

The focus is on greens. One of my oversights was how few I had on hand. When those recipes call for two pounds, they really mean it. As they cook, they really loose volume and when there are more, it helps promote more of a saucy texture. I had one of those tubs of mixed greens, and I should have gotten 2 or 3, but it was still tasty. Many versions of this recipe also call for a blender, but since I don’t have one, I stuck with chopping.

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I’ve been told that I made a Saag Aloo, because of the potato, but I believe in the spinachy spirit of this dish and will leave it up to y’all to customize it and name it what you wish. This was an experiment of mine and I hope you find inspiration from it like I did those other articles.

 

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No two articles I found had the same spices, or even the same proportions, so I played around based on my tastes and what I had available. Slowly I’ve been splurging on spices, and it’s been nice having a variety on hand.

 

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Saag

 

  • Spinach
  • onion
  • garlic
  • potatoes
  • cream
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs niter kibbeh (or butter, or oil)
  • 1tbs coriander
  • 2 tbs turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt

 

  1. Par boil the potatoes in a separate pan.
  2. Cook onion in the niter kibbeh, on medium, until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and spices, then saute for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and water. Simmer for about 15-25 minutes. (4 1/2 would be blend it if you got it)
  5. Add chickpeas, potatoes, and cream.
  6. Return to a brief simmer. Finish cooking the potatoes.

Lemon Ice Cream

I’ve been in a citrus kind of mood these days, it seems. It’s hard to escape in the summer through–tart can be so refreshing in this heat. This recipe definitely delivers on tart and refreshing. It’s probably the most sour thing I enjoy.

As far as ice cream recipes go, this one is a bit different from what I’m used to. What first struck me was that it is an ice cream–so there’s dairy in it–as opposed to a lemon sorbet. Seemed like it’d be an interesting texture to try out, and I wasn’t disappointed. With the cooking and the chilling, this ends up being a two day recipe, but it’s worth the wait.

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Start by mixing the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and lemon zest. Fancy zesters make this a lot prettier than cutting flakes off with your knife, but the most important thing is to make sure they’re sizes that you don’t mind eating. Once the sugar has melted and the mixture has had a chance to steep off the heat, put it back on the heat and bring to a simmer. While that’s going, separate the eggs and beat the yolks in a separate bowl. To help temper the process, don’t add the eggs to the mix, instead, slowly incorporate some of the hot mixture into the yolks, tablespoons at a time. Once it’s to temperature, add the egg mix back into the pot and let it all cook for about 10 more minutes. Now comes the patience: cool, cover and chill overnight.

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On the morrow, add the lemon juice to the mix. Once it’s ready, behold the wonder of an ice cream machine at work while you anticipate the creamy tang of the ice cream you wish you were already eating.

It came out of my machine too soft, so I had to freeze it for a few hours before I could really enjoy it, but that extra wait was worth it. If you’re interested in exploring toppings or mix-ins, I highly recommend considering crumbled madeleines.

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Lemon Ice Cream (this is for a 2 quart ice cream maker)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup and 1 tbs sugar

1 – 3 lemons’ worth of zest

2 1/2 egg yolks (you can do it!)

1/4 cup and 2 tbs lemon juice

  1. In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, sugar, and zest, let simmer over low heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove lid and bring mixture to a simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and whisk the yolks in a separate bowl.
  4. Very slowly, ie tablespoons at a time, add some of the warm mixture to the eggs. This is to temper the eggs while avoiding cooking them.
  5. Once tempered, add egg mix into saucepan. Stir and cook over low heat until mixture thickens, about 5 – 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate overnight in a covered container.
  7. THE NEXT DAY: add the lemon juice to the mixture and stir, then pour into ice cream maker as per it’s instructions.
  8. Either eat and enjoy right away, or freeze for a little to enjoy slightly later.

 

Lemon Couscous

A few years ago I found out that my grandpa’s grandpa was Moroccan. I had already been into Middle Eastern food for a while, but that got me pretty revved up about it. I learned a few things, my favorite of which were preserved lemons and tagines.

 

These days, many of my coworkers come from Africa, so I get to eat all sorts of tasty food. We love potlucks and I feel very blessed. When one talented lady brought in her couscous, that sparked in me the desire to try it out. I had some lemon-marinated chicken in the fridge and ran with that. I searched the internet for couscous recipes that used the ingredients I felt like using, then came up with this mash-up of my favorites.

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Lemon Couscous

  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 -2 boxes of couscous (2 makes a surprising amount. it’s what I made, but you can probably get away with 1)
  • 3-5 carrots
  • 1 medium – big onion
  • 1/4 – 1/3 head cauliflower
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • tomatoes
  • about 4 cups veggie broth
  • cumin
  • pepper
  • allspice
  • lemon zest
  • tomato paste
  • turmeric
  • celery salt
  • bragg’s liquid aminos
  • celery salt

 

 

  1. Chop up all the veggies into stew-sized chunks, except for the tomatoes
  2. Slice chicken into bite sized pieces
  3. Cook chicken and onions for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the carrots and a 1/4 cup broth, if it’s not juicy enough. You basically want something to help stew, but not quite simmer, the carrots in.
  5. Add spices, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes. The carrots should soften slightly.
  6. While this is going, cook the couscous. It happens pretty fast, so it’s easy to do while waiting between steps.
  7. Add cauliflower, cover and let cook for 10 minutes more.
  8. I let mine stew for about 30 minutes, but if you’re hungry you could eat it sooner.
  9. Slice fresh tomatoes and serve on top.

Baked Spanish Tortilla, an experiment

I was given a bunch of fresh squash and zucchini the other day. Living in an apartment, it’s very nice knowing people who have gardens and small appetites. Lucky me!

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For a long time, I always made basically the same thing with squash and zucchini–a delicious stewed concoction with tomatoes that could go well with pasta or in lasagna–but this time I wanted to do something different. I’d also been craving a quiche or something eggy, so one fateful night, I decided to embark on a Spanish tortilla. The first night I had a Spanish tortilla was very eventful for me. It was the first night I found out that beer could taste good and it was my first college party, so this dish has an interesting place in my brain/heart.

Before I’d only had it with onion, potato, and egg, but I thought the squash and zucchini double whammy would work out well. I recently bought pounds and pounds of potatoes and have a ridiculous amount of good olive oil (thanks mom!), so I went to town.

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Since I don’t have a very good skillet for a traditional Spanish tortilla, I decided to try baking it, which thankfully, turned out very well.

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Baked Spanish Tortilla!

Garlic, Salt, Pepper
3-4 medium golden potatoes
4-5 squash and/or zucchini
I think I used around 8 eggs?
And probably about 1/4 cup olive oil (that’s why it’s important to have one that you think tastes good)

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Slice the garlic (of course), potatoes, zucchini, and squash (and onion if you remember) into thin slices of equal thickness. Mine were about 1/4 inch.
3. Oil the bottom of a 9 x 13 and begin layering the potatoes and squash/zuchs, starting with potatoes on bottom. Add a little Salt/Pepper/Garlic/Olive oil at each layer.
4. Crack some eggs into a separate bowl and whisk, then pour over pan. You want it to fill to only about half full. I started with only a few but kept adding more until it reached the level. (My pan isn’t 9 x 13, it’s something weird like 10 3/8 x 14 1/4, so I needed about 8 eggs, but you might need a different amount)
5. Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
6. Check on it–test fluffiness of eggs. It might need 15 more minutes without the foil.